Auto Liability Insurance

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Why Do I Need Liability Insurance On My Car, Truck Or Motorcycle?

The New York State registered motor vehicle you drive on a public road or highway in New York State, or that you allow someone else to drive, must be covered by liability insurance. Vehicles registered outside New York State and operated within this state must conform with the New York State financial responsibility law. New York State law requires this liability insurance to protect you and other highway users who may be involved in an accident with you:

  • Unless your registered vehicle is a motorcycle, it has to be insured even when it is in storage or not being driven. If you have a motorcycle, its insurance coverage must be in effect whenever the vehicle is operated on a public road or highway.
  • Your vehicle's insurance and registration must always be in exactly the same name. You should always carry the insurance ID card in your vehicle.
  • Insurance companies may provide proof of auto liability coverage in a paper or electronic format. The electronic format must be capable of being displayed on a portable electronic device.
  • The insurance coverage must be obtained from a company licensed by the NYS Department of Financial Services and authorized by DMV. Out-of-state insurance is not acceptable.

When your vehicle becomes insured, your insurance company must file your coverage electronically with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Your company also will issue you an insurance identification card so you can register your vehicle at the DMV. However, your insurance ID card alone does not prove you have coverage. State law requires electronic filing of coverage by your insurance company. 

What Happens If My Vehicle Doesn't Have Liability Coverage?

Your insurance company must notify the DMV electronically every time you obtain motor vehicle insurance liability coverage and whenever your coverage has ended. This also is true whether you have changed your insurance company or registered a replacement vehicle, or if your coverage has been reinstated. If your insurance company does not properly notify the DMV electronically, your vehicle registration will be suspended and your driver license could also become suspended.

How Would Driving Without Insurance Affect My Driver License?

Your driver license and vehicle registration will be revoked for at least one year if the DMV receives information that you were involved in a traffic crash while driving a motor vehicle not covered by liability insurance. Your license and registration will also be revoked for at least one year if someone else driving your uninsured vehicle is involved in a traffic crash and is convicted of operating without insurance.

The traffic court fine could be as much as $1,500 for driving without insurance or allowing someone else to drive your uninsured vehicle. You will have to pay the DMV an additional civil penalty of $750 to get your license back after revocation.

How Do I Avoid A Problem?

Remember this simple rule: no insurance, no plates!
Make sure the DMV always has your current address for both your vehicle registration and your driver license. You must keep the liability coverage on your motor vehicle for as long as your vehicle is registered in New York State. Your liability coverage must be provided by a company licensed by the NYS Department of Financial Services. Out-of-state coverage is never acceptable on any vehicle registered in New York State. If your NYS insurance is going to end for any reason, turn in the license plates to DMV before your coverage ends. Be sure to obtain a receipt showing that you turned them in. If your insurance is ending, you must turn in your plates even if your car or truck will be parked off the public road or put into storage.

If you DO NOT have valid liability insurance coverage for your vehicle, you MUST IMMEDIATELY turn in your registration and license plates at a DMV office or complete the Plate Surrender Application (PD-7) for each set of plates you are surrendering and mail the application with your plates to

6 Empire State Plaza
Room B240
Albany, NY 12228

NOTE: Motorcycle plates DO NOT have to be surrendered to DMV when liability insurance lapses. However, it is illegal to operate a motorcycle when it does not have proper liability insurance.

What If I Get A Letter From The DMV That States My Insurance Has Lapsed?

Read the letter carefully, and answer it quickly! The DMV letter means an insurance company has notified the DMV that your insurance coverage has ended, and that no other company has notified the DMV about new coverage. Read the insert that came with the letter and follow its instructions carefully. If there is a problem, do not assume your insurance company will take care of it. If you actually do have insurance, respond as the letter instructs, then contact your company or agent about the problem. Ask your company to file a notice of coverage with the DMV electronically.

What If I Get A Letter From The DMV That States My Insurance Company Didn't Verify My Coverage?

This means your insurance company did not file your coverage with the DMV electronically. Contact your company or agent and ask them to file a notice of coverage. If the DMV does not receive proper notification electronically from the insurance company, your registration and license will be suspended.

What If My Insurance Coverage Has Not Lapsed?

If you receive a cancellation notice from your insurance company and you do not believe your coverage has really ended or been cancelled, contact your insurance agent or company immediately.

  • Do not use the vehicle if coverage has ended, even if you think it ended because of a mistake.
  • If your liability coverage is going to end and you are not going to immediately replace it with other coverage, turn in your license plates to the DMV before coverage ends. If you do not, your vehicle registration and driver license will be suspended.
  • Do not keep the plates while you work out a problem with the insurance company. Turn the plates in to the DMV! You can get your registration back and new plates when the problem is corrected. If your insurance coverage becomes reinstated or if you obtain coverage from a different company, be sure the new company notifies DMV electronically.

Why Did I Get A Suspension For Invalid Proof Of Insurance?

If this happens, your insurance company reported that the proof of insurance you gave to the DMV was not valid and you do not have liability coverage with them. If you do have coverage with that company, contact your insurance company and ask them to file a notice of coverage with the DMV electronically. The company must file notice electronically - paper proof or e-mail messages are NOT acceptable. Your proof of insurance cannot be filed electronically by your insurance agent or broker; it can be filed electronically only by your insurance company.

If your vehicle is now insured with a different company, provide your new insurance ID card to the DMV and ask your new company to file your coverage with the DMV electronically.

What If I Don't Follow These Steps?

Do not drive any vehicle that is not insured. You could be arrested or ticketed, and your vehicle impounded, by a law enforcement officer. If you do not follow these steps, your vehicle registration will be suspended. You must turn in your vehicle's license plates to the DMV. The registration suspension will last for the same number of days that your vehicle was without liability coverage and the plates had not been turned in.

If the registration suspension period becomes more than 90 days, your driver license will also be suspended. The license suspension will be in effect until it is reinstated after the end of the registration suspension. To reinstate your driver license, you must pay the DMV a $25 license suspension termination fee. For a suspension that has an effective date on or after July 6, 2009, the termination fee is $50.

How Can I Avoid Suspension of My Registration?

If your insurance coverage lapse is 90 days or less, you may have the choice to pay a civil penalty instead of turning in your license plates to the DMV.  This civil penalty option is not available if your insurance lapse was for more than 90 days or if you have used the civil penalty option for a registration suspension within the previous 36 months.

Civil penalty is based on the number of days insurance is lapsed
Insurance Lapse - In DaysCivil Penalty
  1 - 30 days$  8 per day
31 - 60 days$10 per day
61 - 90 days$12 per day


Example 1:  If your insurance lapse is 25 days, you may pay a civil penalty of $200 ($8 per day for 25 days) and not turn in your plates, or you must surrender your plates and serve a registration suspension of 25 days.

Example 2:  If your insurance lapse is 90 days, you may pay a total penalty of $900 ($8 per day for the first 30 days = $240; plus $10 per day for 31 days to 60 = $300; plus $12 per day for days 61-90 = $360) and not turn in your plates; or you must surrender your plates and serve a registration suspension of 90 days.


For more information about Auto Liability Insurance, visit our web site at:

New York State Department of Motor Vehicles
Mark J. F. Schroeder, Commissioner

C-43 (12/03) Edited for the Internet 1/14



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